CHENNAI: A thick blanket of smog engulfed Chennai on Saturday on account of Bhogi, reducing visibility to below 50 metres. Early-morning operations at the airport were crippled, with several flights getting diverted. Train services too were suspended till the condition improved later in the day. Ambient pollution levels went through the roof despite advisories and campaigns for a smokeless Bhogi, which marks the beginning of the four-day Pongal festival, as people were seen burning discarded household items. For six hours, between 3 am and 9 am, people had no choice but to wait for the sun and sea breeze to come to their rescue.
A lorry driver was crushed to death after the truck he was in collided head on with a TNSTC bus near Kanagavallipuram in neighbouring Kancheepuram district reportedly due to poor visibility. As per data from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, all 15 corporation zonal areas measured PM10 (inhalable particles with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller) several times higher than prescribed standards.
Valasarvakkam recorded the highest PM10 value of 386 μg/m3 followed by Thiru.Vi.Ka. Nagar (353), Ambattur (343) and Kodambakkam (339). The leastpolluted zone was Meenambakkam (135). The prescribed standard value for PM10 is 100. Last year, the PM10 value in Kodambakkam was 150, but this Bhogi, it touched 339, which is hazardous. Meanwhile, real-time air quality monitoring stations run by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which measures PM2.5, a key pollutant, in Manali, Alandur and IIT Madras, reveals startling facts. On occasions, PM2.5 value crossed 1,000 μg/m3 in Manali between 6 am and 10.30 am. In IIT Madras, it recorded 799 and Alandur 318.
A total of 12 flights, including eight international ones, were diverted to Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Colombo. This apart, every other flight experienced delay in arrival as well as departure throughout the day. Visibility dropped to below 50 m
Trains too delayed
As many as 150 EMUs were affected on Saturday morning. Trains were operated at 30 kmph. All express trains suffered a delay of 45 minutes to one hour. Train services resumed fully after 9.30 am